Bangladesh pours fifth largest chunk of plastic into sea

Iftekhar Mahmud | Update:

Prothom alo File PhotoAround 73,000 tonnes of plastic waste end up in the sea everyday through the rivers Padma, Jamuna and Meghna in Bangladesh.

Besides domestic waste, there is waste from India, Nepal and China floating down the Ganges, Yamuna and Brahmaputra.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), on the occasion of World Environment Day, has published this in their report regarding the production and usage of plastic worldwide.

The theme of the World Environment Day this year, being observed today, Tuesday, is ‘Beat plastic pollution’.

According to UNEP, the world is currently producing 300 million tonnes of plastic waste each year, of which a significant portion - roughly 8 million tonnes- fall into the seas via 10 river basins.

Eight of the 10 rivers originate in China. Among them, Bangladesh is directly affected by Brahmaputra pollution.

Bangladesh also produces 3000 tonnes of plastic waste every day. A very little portion of the waste accumulates in the sea though. The remaining waste along with that coming from China Nepal and India accumulate in domestic rivers, canals and other places polluting the land and cause serious threat to environment and human health.

According to a report of Environment and Social Development Organisation (ESDO), 6.5 million tonnes of plastic waste is currently generated in Bangladesh while 3000 tonnes are being added to that daily.

ESDO has described polythene bags and plastic waste as a serious threat to country’s overall environment. The organisation said, the growth of increase in bio waste production is 5.2 per cent whereas the growth in plastic waste is 7.5 per cent.

Despite knowing the side effects, 61 per cent people all over the country are currently using polythene bags. 

A 2017 study of ESDO shows, most of the used plastic and polythene accumulate in landfills and water bodies across the country. There is no process of collecting or recycling this.

This plastic waste produces harmful dioxin and hydrogen cyanide, deadly for the human body. The harmful chemicals enter plants and fish and then the human body through the food cycle.

According to ESDO research, plastic waste causes asthma, lung cancer, stomach problems and various skin diseases.

The research team has found plastic traces in the stomachs of fish and livestock.

Shahriar Hossain, the secretary general of ESDO said the use of environment-friendly products is increasing and the use of plastic and polythene is being reduced worldwide.

“Polythene bags in our country were banned in 2002. In 2010 a law on using jute bags was passed. In recent years the use of polythene and plastic bags has increased again and it is affecting the environment as well as clogging the drainage system,” he said.

There are more than 100 factories in different areas of Lalbagh, Hazaribagh, Sadarghat, Gazipur in Dhaka and in Chattogram that manufacture polythene bags.

When asked, the director general of the environment directorate said, “We are trying to work in collaboration with other government organisations to curb the use of plastics. Besides, we plan to conduct raids on the factories which manufacture polythene bags.”

*The article originally published in Prothom Alo print edition has been rewritten by Farjana Liakat

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